How Wookieepedia is creating a more positive Star Wars community

If you’ve ever consulted Google to remember the name of a random Star Wars character, chances are you’ve ended up on Wookieepedia.

The user-curated Star Wars wiki now has over 170,000 pages’ worth of content on just about every Star Wars topic imaginable. But someone has to make sure fans’ desire for information yields accurate and positive results. No one knows Wookieepedia better than the masterminds behind it — and their passion for the ongoing project is unmistakable.

Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) in Lucasfilm’s OBI-WAN KENOBI, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

Jordan is the lead admin and “Supreme Emperor” of Wookieepedia (and also runs the Twitter account — we’ll get into that). And Brandon Rhea is the VP of Community at Fandom, which curates thousands of wikis across a variety of entertainment and gaming fandoms.

Both sat down with Dork Side of the Force earlier this month to discuss their journeys through becoming involved with Fandom, what it’s like to work on wikis behind-the-screens, and what Wookieepedia and Fandom are doing to create more positive communities for fans to engage with and enjoy online.

Dork Side of the Force: Tell me about your personal histories with Wookieepedia and Fandom. How did you get involved, and how has your work evolved over time?

Jordan: So for me, my journey with Wookieepedia started back in, I want to say around 2006. It wasn’t the movies that got me into Star Wars, it was when I went to a local used bookstore and picked up a copy of Heir to the Empire.

Dork Side: Yes!

Jordan: Yes! And after I read that it was just literally grab anything I could from any bookstore I could find. Didn’t matter what part of a series it was, I would just read it and use Wookieepedia to fill in the gaps. I started editing around — I think it was 2008. And once I made that first edit, it was kind of like, well you know, I’ll just do another one. And then I’ll just do another one. And … I’ll just do another one! And then it was just kind of one thing after another — then I got into our old IRC channel and got to meet some of the other contributors, and it was just kind of like a rabbit hole from there. In 2015 I was voted in as one of our site administrators, and then I joined our social media team in 2021.

Brandon: I’ve been with Fandom as a user for … 15 years? So I actually started in our Star Wars fanfiction community, so I wasn’t on Wookieepedia itself. I had a — I still own it — a text-based roleplaying website for Star Wars, so.

Dork Side: Amazing.

Brandon: And me, wanting to show off as much as possible, I said, ‘Oh, I can just write about my own stories on this wiki.’ So I did that and became an admin on that wiki for a while. And then in 2010 one of our OG staff members who’s still here, she was helping me clean up — I think someone was vandalizing the wiki or something. So we were in a conversation on IRC and she just said, ‘I like your tone. Would you be interested in answering support emails for 10 hours a week?’ I said yes, and I was in as a contractor, then eventually full-time, and it just kind of grew from there. But it’s funny because, to this day, ‘I like your tone do you want to answer support emails’ is the only job interview I’ve ever had! Eventually I did end up contributing on Wookieepedia — for the longest time I didn’t because I never really got into the expanded universe of books or games or anything like that. There were some things I read or played, but not enough to contribute. And I felt like the things I did know about, the movies primarily at the time, were already so well-covered . But then in 2014 when Lucasfilm announced that the EU was going to become Legends and there was going to be a new canon moving forward, there was an opportunity on Wookieepedia to start making all new pages. Including, like, a new version of the Luke Skywalker page for example, that was just what was covered in his movie and TV appearances at the time. So I jumped in there because it felt like a natural ‘in’ for what I knew about and just kind of contributed from there.

Jordan: I’ve heard that from so many people, that they saw the ‘reboot’ as a chance to kind of get in at the ground level and not have to have that extensive background into the 30 years of the expanded universe.

Brandon: I think my first entry point was — I was writing about the Darth Maul comic that came out, Son of Dathomir, which was an adaptation of an unused Clone Wars script. And that was probably just a couple weeks after the Legends announcement, and Wookieepedia was very cranky about it at the time. So nobody was covering the new canon stuff. So there was an opportunity to kind of be like, the only person working on Darth Maul at the time.

Jordan: That was definitely one of the most interesting times in my 11 years on the site.

LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA

LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA. Photo: StarWars.com.

Dork Side: I think it’s so interesting how both of you have a similar path to entry which is like: You were just on the internet doing your own thing and just found your way into doing it more officially. That’s literally my FanSided story. I was just doing Star Wars stuff, and someone was like, ‘Do you want to write a thing?’ And I was like, ‘Sure. I guess!’ And here we are.

Brandon: You never really know where it’s going to go when someone asks you that first question.

Jordan: If someone had told me 11 years ago that making that little edit on the Sun Crusher page was going to turn into getting to do, like, media appearances to talk about Wookieepedia … this has helped me find what my passion is and what I want to do as a career. If you would’ve told me that 11 years ago I would have told you you’re crazy.

Dork Side: Part of the very beginning of my Star Wars fandom was writing fanfiction! If you’d told 12-year-old me that at some point I’d be doing this as part of my day? Never would have believed you. It’s so cool. So you’ve kind of talked about how this works, but a lot of people on the outside don’t really know how Wookieepedia and Fandom work on the inside. Often what happens is — I could go to a page on Wookieepedia right now and find something Brotherhood-specific that’s already on there even though the book just came out today — because it just gets up there so fast! How??

Jordan: Honestly one of the most amazing things and something that astonishes me every single day is there really is no coordination on how things get updated. Because it’s all volunteer-based, everyone just kind of works on what they’re interested in which, more often than not, happens to be something that just came out. The speed with which I’ve seen things get updated … it’s just incredible. Even when Book of Boba Fett came out, a group of us got together every week right after the episode to update the Twi’lek majordomo article, and we basically ended up having an entire article within like 12 hours of episode launch.

Brandon: What’s always amazing to me too is the sort of ancillary material always tends to be what in my experience gets filled out first. You’ll have these extensive articles almost immediately about random characters who appeared in a book, or like the Imperial Officer from The Mandalorian or whatever it may be, but the main character pages — everybody kind of looks at those like, ‘These are so unwieldy. There’s already so much missing information. We’ll put that to the side.’ You almost don’t need those because everybody knows what happened to The Mandalorian in an episode of The Mandalorian. But you get all these backstories for the random characters who might have appeared in The Book of Boba Fett. It creates this really interesting catalogue that helps the world come alive.

Jordan: With Obi-Wan Kenobi coming up, we’ve been working on some group projects to get the Obi-Wan article up to snuff. And reading through it I realized that seven, eight years after the switchover happened, we had ONE paragraph on The Phantom Menace. We really had nothing on the entire movie. And I’m just looking at this like — how did we miss that??

Brandon: Yeah, that’s a pretty important chapter in the story, I’d hope that’d get expanded out.

Jordan: I’m sure nothing important happened.

STAR WARS REBELS – “Twin Suns” – Reacting to a vision of Maul, Ezra defies Hera and Kanan to travel to a remote planet in hopes of stopping the former Sith Lord from carrying out his plans. This episode of “Star Wars Rebels” airs Saturday, Marc9h 18 (8:30 – 9:00 P.M. EST) on Disney XD. (Lucasfilm)
DARTH MAUL

Dork Side: So do you find the current stuff that’s happening is kind of what gets more weight in terms of what gets updated than like — The Phantom Menace, for example?

Jordan: I would probably put it towards two-thirds canon, one-third Legends. In terms of the split between who on-site prefers what, I’d say it’s probably an even 50/50 split. But just because anyone who’s newer coming into the community at least tends to focus on canon material.

Brandon: There reached a point a couple years ago where by-and-large the new people who were coming in to start editing were almost exclusively focused on the canon material. But you’ll still get people, especially like hardcore or old-school users on the site, will focus on Legends and even some super-obscure stuff. Like there’s one admin —

Jordan: I was just about to mention him!

Brandon: He also works at Fandom, he’s on one of my teams. His focus primarily is on the West End role-playing games from the early 1990s and filling out that lore in the Legends space.

Dork Side: I love that though! I love how there’s — different fans are into different things, and it ends up being like — you have all the areas you need filled in getting filled in because different people come in from different things and all want to contribute something different. As opposed to everyone just wanting to do the same thing. And that would not work out well for anyone.

Brandon: And it all ties together so well too because like, with that example, there’s so much lore in Star Wars that we just kind of take for granted now, that somebody just made up for a role-playing game that was just meant to be like a tool set for fans. But it became the name of planets, it became backstory information and it just sort of grew from there. And even though that’s just kind of sitting in the Legends space now, you’ll still see references to it dropped into current Star Wars media. So by focusing on that, it gives people the ability to go back and say, ‘Hey I might not know anything about this in canon, but here’s all this background information from what came before 2014. It just allows for a much deeper dive into the franchise.

Jordan: One thing I would honestly love to know is — we all know how many authors, creators, etc. use Wookieepedia as a resource. I really want to know how many of them brought little, subtle nods to all the West End game stuff specifically because of stuff added to the site.

THE MANDALORIAN, Baby Yoda

The Child in THE MANDALORIAN, season two. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Dork Side: I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m on Wookieepedia at least once a day during the week because like — it’s impossible to know everything. Especially if you have, like, as a fan, you’re really into this one thing. But you need to know this one tiny detail, like what happened to Lama Su in The Bad Batch? Go onto Wookieepedia, oh he’s not actually dead. Great! So tell me about your favorite parts of doing the work you do.

Brandon: It’s really for me about enabling and empowering the experience within the community. I was a user once, it was a passion for me and there’s obviously things I really love, like I’m a big Star Wars fan, I like Star Trek, I really like the MCU. Being able to provide and support a platform where people can just express themselves in a very celebratory way and kind of build this resource is just very gratifying to me.

Jordan: For me it’s just getting to work with this amazing community, and meet and interact with people who are quite literally on the other side of the planet, and we’re all just collaborating on this one shared resource on a topic that we just all love. Through Wookieepeia and through the larger Fandom communities, I’ve met some of the best friends I have in life now, some of the most incredible people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Things that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gone to look up what the heck the Sun Crusher is.

Dork Side: I can’t believe I know what that is. There’s just so much Star Wars happening.

Jordan: I’m so glad you know what that is.

Dork Side: I definitely do. Somehow. I don’t know how.

Jordan: I think everyone does, in some way or another. Even if it’s just, ‘What’s this thing that can destroy a sun?’

Dork Side: Exactly.

Brandon: I almost made a joke that that’s back when the Star Wars EU was obsessed with topping the Death Star. But then I realized — they really haven’t stopped doing that even in the new stuff, so …

Dork Side: They sure haven’t!

Jordan: That’s a thing that’s just never going to stop.

Dork Side: That’s I think, across the Star Wars fandom as a whole, one of the best parts of the community. Just all the people you can meet and interact with that you would never ever meet otherwise. There are people all over the world doing different things, in different stages of life, whatever it might be, and you just find community in the things you all like and find interesting within this ever-growing fictional thing that we are all obsessed with … for some reason.

Brandon: And it’s really nice too because we like bringing users from different communities together — for example in about two and a half weeks we’re holding an event called Community Connect, and Jordan’s going to be there as well. It’s in-person and it’s in L.A. and it’s all about bringing core community members together to [talk about] some of the things we’re working on, how communities in Fandom can partner together … but it’s also just about building those connections between the different users. Because even though Jordan likes Star Wars and somebody else might like Star Trek, and someone else might like an anime property or a video game or whatever it may be, they’re all interconnected and they all relate to each other through this shared experience of building out wikis. And they’re all excited about it in very much the same way. So being able to see those groups come together has always been really rewarding, especially now. This will be our first time being able to do it in person in two and a half years. It just always becomes a really special bonding experience and everybody’s always had a good time when they do it.

Jordan: I absolutely cannot wait.

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX

Dork Side: I love that! That sounds really fun. Speaking of community! We have to talk about Twitter. We have to talk about whatever is happening on the Wookieepedia Twitter right now because — the interaction is like — it seems constant to me, and I just want to hear more about how that came about. And what does it add to the experience of working with Wookieepedia and just the community aspect in general?

Brandon: I ran the Twitter for a while there, I think starting in 2014 or 2015. And I offered to do it because what I realized was really just like … link-sharing and trying to build traffic, in my experience that’s really not the best use of Twitter. Twitter you want to scroll through your feed and click ‘like’ on something that engages you for three seconds and then you move on to the next thing. It’s really not about clicking through to an article. Twitter has had to add a feature that’s like ‘Do you want to read this political article before you retweet it?’ Because most people just don’t do it. So I started posting a lot more and kind of trying to build some comradery with other Star Wars fans. At the time, there’s two admins that are no longer there, but they were very much in the mindset of like … ‘We’re better than everybody else and we don’t need to be friends with other Star Wars fans or other Star Wars fan sites. And I very much disagree with that take. So I identified some of the influencers within the community, started talking to them from the Wookieepedia account, kind of building a rapport between them. And mostly what I focused on in terms of content was trying to do memes and other funny things that I thought could get a thousand likes or something like that. And that grew it from probably a couple hundred [followers], maybe low thousands, to something in the 30-thousands. At the time, over the course of six years, I thought that was really impressive. And then Jordan took over and completely blew me out of the water in the course of a year.

Jordan: The first 30,000 on social media really is the hardest. After that at least you’ve got your user base to kind of grow off of! I took the account over back in — it’s funny, it was actually by pure chance that I ended up doing the Twitter account. When everything went down and these two administrators were removed, one of them had access to all our social media accounts. He was the ‘head’ of our social media team. I was originally going to be doing our Facebook account, which was at the time our second largest one at about 70,000 followers. But then after their removal he decided, ‘Oh, I’m just going to take over the Facebook account and not use it and just hold it so you can’t actually enjoy it.’ So in conversation with Tommy, one of our other site administrators, he was like, ‘Hey, do you just want to do some of the Twitter stuff? I’m a little busy right now.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll give it a shot. I’ve never used Twitter, but I’ll have some fun learning it. And then it was just one of the best parts of my day, getting to go on there and see how much fun people in the Star Wars community were having, and just that shared joy we all get from Star Wars. One of the early things I tried to do was figure out — and Brandon helped a lot with this — figuring out: what is the voice of Wookieepedeia? What does the site stand for? What are we? Well, we’re a place where everyone can come together and geek out about this shared fandom. Doesn’t matter if you like everything, doesn’t matter if you hate everything. We all like Star Wars in some form or another.

ahsoka, The Clone Wars

Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 710 “The Phantom Apprentice” – Image Courtesy Disney+

Brandon: Something you said, Meg, reminded me of that, where you said not everybody can know everything. And that’s really where a lot of the personality and voice ended up coming from. This idea that as long as you like one thing in Star Wars — I don’t care if it’s Jar Jar Binks — as long as you like something, you’re a Star Wars fan. And we decided to kind of take this stance of being more of a positive voice in the community. Wookieepedia has done a lot over the past year to champion DEI efforts and really saying, ‘We as a community are not going to tolerate gatekeeping.’ And that’s something that kind of permeates throughout Fandom — our brand is a celebratory one. We say it’s for the love of fans. One of our values is we bring joy. We want it to be a positive and welcoming place. And I think Wookieepedia has been a very important voice in that conversation.

Jordan: That’s one of the big things that I’ve kind of drawn off of as well. For the love of fans. We’re all here for this shared goal. One of the most amazing things I’ve seen just doing our Twitter is how many people actually want to have positive conversations about Star Wars. But they’re afraid to actually have that conversation because it’s such an inherently toxic community.

Brandon: And you see that because — my interaction with the Wookieepedia account is mostly just to troll them. But in a very constructive and fun way.

Jordan: It never gets old.

Brandon: But every once in a while you’ll get someone who’s like ‘You’re being so negative! Why are you attacking Wookieepedia?’ Like, they’re in on the bit, it’s OK! But people are used to negativity so I think they really appreciate that the replies to Wookieepedia tweets are generally a very positive experience.

Dork Side: Even if I don’t always interact with the Twitter, I just love looking at it because it’s just so fun. It’s just so happy. If I’m having a bad day, oh look, there’s just a random Star Wars fact or random Star Wars question. And then you look at everyone interacting with it and it’s like — people are really here to have fun. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. But sometimes someone will see a fact and they’re like, ‘Oh this is cool.’ And that’s all that really matters, right? We’re just here trying to enjoy a thing, and learn new things about a thing we didn’t know.

Brandon: And people are really craving that too. You could see, there was a shift in conversation once Jordan started doing more of this on Twitter. You would actually see people replying or talking about it like, ‘Oh my God, the Wookieepedia account is so fun! They’ve changed in a really good way.’ And it was something that excited people. And then recently it became very obviously clear that the official Star Wars Twitter had a new social media manager behind it because they were starting to engage more. So you saw all these conversations that were like, ‘Oh! Star Wars AND Wookieepedia are doing this now!’ And super excited to see that positivity out there.

Jordan: I actually did a little bit of digging. It’s not actually a new social media person! They were finally able to sell it to their higher-ups that ‘Hey, you know, we can have some fun here.’

Dork Side: It was like, within a day, a complete difference. And everyone’s like, who’s this new person?

Jordan: I love seeing us bounce off each other. And even just engaging with the “s****posting” side of Star Wars Twitter, it’s just like, watching Twitter freak out is just so much fun. It’s literally the greatest part of my day. Like if I’m just about to go to bed and I see there’s a group of people who follow us doing a live Twitter space — let’s just join and see what happens. Then I’ll just listen for a good 10 to 15 seconds before someone’s like ‘Wookieepedia’s here!’

Dork Side: I really think this is going to become more of a thing, too, as more fans recognize that the act of — believe it or not, you can actually have fun on Star Wars Twitter — the more people interact with that and see that, the more we’re going to see more. I’m excited for that. There’s always going to be that side of it where it is negative or there are things you don’t like to think about or talk about too much. But if you just keep interacting with the positivity, there’s just going to be more of it. I’m just really fascinated by how community evolves that way, where the leaders — like Wookieepedia, or the official Star Wars account — they start doing this specific type of interaction, this way of being on social media, and everyone wants to follow that and be like them and replicate that. That’s amazing, that there is that much power in just changing the way you view things and do things like that.

Jordan: Early on, that was really one of the things I wanted to do — and it was only after I’d started interacting with people and watching them freak out about liking one of their tweets, I started to think about, well, we have a very prominent, very large voice in this community. What would happen if we were to stand up and say no to the negativity? And just start focusing on the positive? And I think within the next 30 minutes we’re going to cross 120,000 followers. [They did.] 

Brandon: And Wookieepedia’s in a unique position too. Because so many brands have more of a social experience behind it, but on a wiki, it’s all about the reference content. There’s obviously conversation that goes into it, but so much of it is based on, how do we build this shared reference material? And on a wiki, it doesn’t matter what you thought about Luke Skywalker’s story in The Last Jedi. The story’s the story and that’s what gets put out in front of people. So wikis in that sense are lucky enough that they’re able to duck some of the more toxic social issues. So you can kind of rest on your laurels with that and be like, ‘Oh, we’re good, we don’t have to worry about that.’ But Wookieepedia actually has the positive stability behind it to where it can then go out and credibly talk about shutting down gatekeeping or being more of a positive voice.

Jordan: There was a fun question that came up on a podcast I did a couple weeks ago about how Wookieepedia editors avoid that personal bias of ‘Well I like this, but I don’t like this, so I[‘m going to spin this a certain way.’ Working on a wiki, you look past that. It’s: here are the objective facts, how do we write this in a way that’s entirely neutral and focused entirely on what was said? If it wasn’t said, don’t write it.

Dork Side: It’s really hard to do sometimes. But if you’re in that mindset, you’re like, ‘OK, I’m here to provide information, and recount exactly what happened and how this is.’ You kind of fall into a rhythm with it.

Brandon: Even if you didn’t like the movie or the episode or the book or whatever,  normally what I see from people is, they just kind of sigh and they’re like, ‘OK. So that happened. All right, how do you want to write about this?’ They just process and move on.

Jordan: I’ve even seen a few instances where people who are writing on Wookieepedia will be like: ‘Well, I didn’t like this episode at all. But we need the content, so I’m going to write about it.’ It’s kind of taking that objective look at it to a whole new level, like, ‘I didn’t like this. But I want us to be complete. So I’m going to take this on.’

Star Wars

Star Wars: The Last Jedi..Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) ..Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. ..© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Dork Side: And it works, because then you have that separation of ‘Here on Wookieepedia, the actual pages, is the information that you want.’ And then you can go to social media or wherever else and actually have a conversation and talk about what you actually thought about it. So if anyone out there is interested in getting involved with doing the editing or any kind of aspect of getting more involved [with Fandom] than just reading, what kinds of things can the general Star Wars fan be involved in, and what’s the first step they’d need to take to do that?

Jordan: This is one that comes up almost on a daily basis. My first advice is: Don’t be afraid. You’re not going to break anything. You’re not going to mess the site up. If you make a mistake, that’s totally OK. It’s not a mistake if you learn something from it. And all of us made mistakes starting out. We have a Discord channel that is full of people more than happy to help you get started. Fandom has a Discord as well that’s very helpful for the more technical aspects. But the biggest thing is just don’t be afraid. Let us know you’re interested. We’ll help guide you along.

Brandon: One of the big ethos in wikis — and this goes all the way back to Wikipedia, is this idea of ‘Be bold.’ Just do it, just jump in, find something — even if it’s a typo, you have to start somewhere. Don’t worry about messing things up. We’ve done some user research in the past to find out the biggest barrier to people getting involved. And some of it is about — it’s so authoritative, it’s like the gospel of your favorite movie or TV. It’s really just kind of, breaking that down and being like, no one’s going to be mad at you. Just put your best effort in and make a good-faith edit, and people can help you from there.

Jordan: That’s one of the core things on Wookieepedia, is the idea to just be bold. Don’t be afraid. And if you make a mistake, it’s going to happen. It’s quite literally technically impossible for you to break the site.

Dork Side: Anything else you want the people to know about Wookieepedia? Fandom? All the things?

Jordan: You want to tell people how to make a Fandom account?

Brandon: It’s available to anyone, if you’re logged out there’s a registration link in the left-hand navigation bar. People are always more than welcome to do that. They can also contribute to most wikis including Wookieepedia if they’re not logged in. But yeah, it’s certainly highly recommended. Probably my biggest takeaway is that, despite what I may say on Twitter, Wookieepedia is a prety great community. And it’s one that I think anyone would benefit from being part of.

Fandom has over 250,000 wiki communities just like Wookieepedia that anyone can join and be a part of. To join in on the fun, start by creating a Fandom account and joining the communities you’re most passionate about. To join the positive community surrounding Wookieepedia’s content, you can follow the official account on Twitter.

Follow Dork Side of the Force for all your Star Wars news, reviews, and more!